“Laughter rises out of tragedy, when you need it the most, and rewards you for your courage.” – Erma Bombeck
In the life of every person with chronic depression comes a time when you are so miserable, all you can do is laugh at yourself. This laughter is not a funny, light-hearted kind of laughter, like that of a delighted child opening her birthday presents (wouldn’t that be nice). It is more a gallows humor, a grim yet wry acknowledgment of how absurd our plight is and how powerless we are to rise above it in any given moment. Marie Antoinette must have felt just so on her way to the guillotine.
The paradox, however, is that in acknowledging our powerlessness by laughing about it, we can then begin to take constructive action on our own behalf; soon, we feel better. (This assumes your hands are not handcuffed behind your back.) In the name of feeling better, faster, here is an ironic list of the top ten things you should not do if you have depression:
#10: Do NOT invite friends or relatives over for dinner. See, the thing about your friends and relatives is that they tend to expect little things like clean dishes, cooked food on the table, an absence of dirty-kitty litter odor, and a roll of toilet paper on the holder in the bathroom. A selfish lot, to be sure. On top of that, they may distract you from your ruinous ruminations and make you think of something besides your own misery. Having company over is to be avoided at all costs.
#9: Do NOT go anywhere near the kitchen. Kitchens demand healthy sorts of behavior, such as thinking about nutrition, recipes, and grocery lists; taking food out of the fridge and cooking it; sitting down to enjoy a tasty meal; and—worst of all—cleaning up afterwards. Shudder. Piles of dirty dishes overflowing the sink and the cardboard relics of takeout dinners and UFOs (unidentified frozen objects) are familiar and therefore comforting. They are to be protected and savored.
#8: Do NOT get out in the yard to plant flowers or take any walks. The fresh air, sunshine, chirping birds, and cute squirrels are irritating in the extreme and may well incite a desire to rent a paintball gun and take out any small creatures you encounter. As satisfying as yellow cardinals and blue squirrels might be, it’s better to resist the temptation and stay indoors. A side benefit of refraining from any outdoor excursions is that you remain lethargic and couch-bound, and thus within reach of the chips and salsa. Much more satisfying.
#7: Do NOT take any supplements that may help ease your depression, especially fish oils with omega-3’s and St. John’s wort. I mean, can we really trust what the alternative health industry is saying about these things? After all, they’re not regulated by the FDA, and you know how above-board and diligent they are. Those fish—who knows where they’ve been? And St. John’s wort?? Do you truly want to ingest worts? Do you even know what they are? Better to keep your money out of the pockets of those mega-health companies and spend it on more chips and salsa.
#6: Do NOT make your bed. Ever. For starters, you’ll be spending most of the day and all of the night in it, so why bother? Secondly, it’s so much more uplifting to walk into your bedroom and see the mounded covers, wrinkled sheets, and punched-up pillows than it is to espy a smooth, characterless expanse. The shed hairs, dead skin cells, and nose boogers that cling to your sheets only enrich the time spent in bed. Finally, this will give you added incentive to leave the dirty laundry in its hamper as you’ll have nowhere to dump the clean clothes when it’s time to fold them. What a relief!
#5: Do NOT change your sheets every week. Maybe not even once a month. This is a corollary to #6. You’ll be spending most of your time in bed, so why bother, etc. etc. As an added bonus, by not changing your sheets you are doing your part to save the planet. Less laundry means less water, gas, and electricity used; less toxic laundry detergent sent into the groundwater; and less wear-and-tear on the sheets themselves. You’ll need to buy fewer sets of sheets and, therefore, those polluting factories will lower their output. You’ll be a hero!
#4: Do NOT talk to your friends—not on the phone and especially not in person. The reasons for this should be obvious. Your friends have this obnoxious habit of caring for you. They ask questions like, “How are you? No, how are you, really?” and “Did you eat today?” and “When’s the last time you showered?” As if it’s any of their business! They might try to tell a stupid joke just to make you laugh. And—horrors—they may invite you to join them in some fun activity. Ugh! Unplug the phone. Better yet, cancel your phone services altogether and take your phones to your town’s hazardous waste drop-off site.
#3: Do NOT watch or read anything funny. It’s very important that your mind be freed up to focus on how crappy life is and what a terrible person you are. This is important work. There is far too much goodness and light in the world. It is imperative that you act as a counterbalance by remaining as depressed as you possibly can. After all, we’ve heard all our lives how important balance is to a well-rounded life. Keep up the good work!
#2: Do NOT do your job. Whether you work for someone else or for yourself, stop it. What were you thinking? By working, you achieve three undesirable results: a) You reduce the amount of time available for staying in bed and being miserable; b) you help people, thus adding to the amount of goodness and light in the world; and c) you bring in an income, which allows you to pay your bills and seek help for your depression, such as beer spas and bee sting therapy. Do yourself and the world a favor by joining the ranks of the unemployed.
#1: Do NOT take a shower. Indulging in diligent hygiene habits might make you fit for company and inspire you to do something. Are you nuts?! Being proactive is the last thing you want to do. If you smelled better, you might actually begin to have some positive self-esteem. If you removed the grease from your hair and the grime from under your nails, you might feel compelled to participate in life. If you shaved in all the appropriate spots, you just might want to get close to somebody else. All of these behaviors will bring you out of your comfort zone, thus defeating the point of depression in the first place. Stay comfortable by remaining unwashed.
(c) 2011 by Patricia R. Henschen, M.A.
Many thanks to wellness coach Caitlyn V. Johnston for her inspirations for this article!
Note: Did this article tickle your funny bone? If so, tickle others’ funny bones by sharing it via Facebook, Twitter, or other social media outlets. You may also copy and paste the article into an email and share it with your friends and colleagues, provided: a) You copy the entire article, b) you include my copyright statement and this paragraph, and c) you include a link to this blog. Thanks! And keep laughing!